Thursday, August 2, 2012




Counter-terrorism agencies and the Police are taken by surprise when terrorists strike for the first time using a new modus operandi (MO). This is natural. We had seen this happen in Mumbai in March,1993, in the US on 9/11, in Madrid in 2004, in London in 2005 and some other places.

2. In other countries after such surprises, the Police and other investigating agencies manage to do a thorough investigation, reconstruct the crime, identify deficiencies that facilitated the successful terrorist strikes and strengthen preventive measures to see that similar strikes are not repeated.

3. India is a country where the terrorists manage to strike again and again using the same MO and often similar material without the police being able to prevent this happening. Since 1993, when Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the New York World Trade Centre with a truckload of ammonium nitrate, a commonly used fertiliser, terrorists in different parts of the world started using ammonium nitrate as the explosive base if they are not able to lay hand on military-grade explosives. Instances of such use of ammonium nitrate have been considerably prevented in other countries through an effective regulatory mechanism to control the sale of ammonium nitrate and its pilferage from the stocks of agriculturists authorised to buy them.

4. Even though terrorists in India have also been repeatedly using ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil in their improvised explosive devices (IEDs), our police and counter-terrorism agencies have not so far been able to put in place an effective regulatory mechanism to prevent the use of ammonium nitrate for acts of terrorism. According to media reports, ammonium nitrate was the explosive base used in the Pune blasts of August 1,2012.

5. Many of our terrorist strikes remain inadequately investigated and unsuccessfully prosecuted. The two major exceptions to this were the March 1993 serial explosions in Mumbai and the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. The arrests of some members of the Memon family when they returned to India from Karachi and their interrogation contributed to the successful investigation and prosecution of the Indian perpetrators of the March 1993 explosions. The capture of Ajmal  Kasab, one of the Pakistani perpetrators of the 26/11 strikes, led to the successful detection and prosecution. If Kasab had also been killed, it is doubtful whether there would have been a successful prosecution.

6. The so-called Indian Mujahideen (IM) has carried out a number of strikes using IEDs at least since 2007, if not earlier, in different cities of  India. None of these cases has so far led to a successful prosecution though many arrests were made. An alibi often advanced by our police and agencies for the inadequate investigation of these cases is that the three leaders of the IM operate from sanctuaries in Pakistan.

7.This alibi does not explain why we are not able to investigate thoroughly and completely what has been happening in our territory. The fact that the leaders operate from sanctuaries in Pakistan can explain our not being able to collect information and evidence about their activities and their contacts with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). But, this cannot explain our inability to collect details regarding their foot jihadis in India, their accomplices, their sleeper cells and their sources of material required for IEDs.

8. The IM has often been using the MO of planting the IEDs in bicycles. All we are able to find out is wherefrom they procured the cycles, which is easy to find out and does not require special investigative skills. But we seem to be still in the dark about their sources of procurement of detonators, which can normally be procured only from quarries, mines and construction companies and the storage depots of the security forces which stock detonators for professional use.

9. There have been very few instances of an IM perpetrator being caught red-handed as Kasab was. Most of our reconstruction is, therefore, based on statements of suspects arrested and interrogated after the commission of an act of terrorism.Their interrogation is apparently not able to provide a continuous and unbroken narrative of how the terrorist strike was planned and executed, resulting in inadequate detection and prosecution.

10. These deficiencies in our counter-terrorism preventive and investigation machinery cannot be removed merely by setting-up the proposed National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC). There is a need for a determined attempt to improve the investigation skills of the Police in terrorism-related cases in the States. ( 3-8-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )



In an excellent analysis on the morning of August 2,2012, under the title “Dismissive Congress In No Mood To Engage With Anna”, Smita Gupta, the "Hindu's" New Delhi correspondent, wrote: “ A year-and-a-half after Mr.Hazare placed the issue of corruption in the public domain, striking a chord with a middle class unhappy with the slowdown in the economy, the movement appears to have fizzled out.”

2.The fact that Anna and his Team had themselves realised that their movement had reached a dead-end became obvious a few hours later when a group of eminent persons released a statement appealing to the fasting Anna and his colleagues to end their fast and continue their struggle by building an alternate political force.

3.This appeal was seen by many as the beginning of a search for a face-saving by a group of civil society leaders to salvage the movement from an embarrassing second fizzle-out after the one of last year in Mumbai. The Government’s dismissive attitude and the poor response from the students of Delhi to the appeal of Shri Arvind Kejriwal to miss their classes for a week and come to Jantar Mantar seemed to have turned the scale against those who were in favour of continuing the fast and keeping up the confrontation against the Government.

4.Later that day, Anna announced the decision of the team to give up the fast at 5 PM on August 3 and discuss what next. From his remarks, it is not clear that he has now come round to the view that forming an alternate political party to contest the 2014 elections on a plank of clean, people-friendly, honest Government was the only option left to him. In media interviews given by him before the fast, he had indicated that while he might be inclined to back some members of his team with a good track record if they decided to contest the elections, he was disinclined to contest himself or form a political party of his own. Many have assumed after his remarks on the termination of the fast that he has now veered in favour of a new political party to enter the electoral fray. It is yet to be seen whether this is so.

5. The movement against corruption has not failed. The moral and intellectual support enjoyed by Anna from large sections of the middle class of this country has not dwindled. At the same time, there is a fatigue with the tactics adopted by the movement to achieve its objective of a corruption-free India. The frequent resort to dramatic fasts and attempts to coerce the Government through various pressure tactics to concede its demands were having less and less takers. The law of diminishing returns had set in, highlighting the need for a change of tactics. Most discouraging was the fact that Anna and his movement had failed to electrify the common people in the rest of the country. It remained largely an elitist-cum  middle class movement.

6. Forming an alternative political party that can deliver within the two years that remain before the elections is not going to be easy. Apart from the lack of funds, the lack of political cadres who can carry its electoral  fight to different parts of the country would stand in the way of its political exercise succeeding. Moreover, having thus far projected the movement as a moral crusade not owing its inspiration to any political party, it cannot now seek to join hands with existing political parties for carrying the movement forward. That will result in a further dilution of the credibility of the movement and make Team Anna appear as a group of political opportunists incognito from the beginning.

7. A better option will be a nation-wide campaign by Anna to convert what has remained an elitist middle class movement into a mass movement of the people based on three slogans: “Say No To Bribe”,”Bring in Jan Lokpal” and “Free the CBI From Govt Clutches”. Till now, the people were being brought to New Delhi to demonstrate  the people’s power of the movement. Now, it is time for Anna to go to the masses of this country to demonstrate his concerns for them because of the cancer of corruption and rally them in support of his cause.

8. What Anna needs is a movement  patterned after the Bhoodan movement of Acharya Vinoba Bhave. Vinobaji did not place his faith in Delhi. He placed it in the masses in the rest of India. He undertook a padayatra from village to village, from town to town to disseminate his message of “land for the landless peasant”. He did not have to go to Delhi from time to time to demonstrate his coercive power. Delhi went to him wherever he was in recognition of his moral and spiritual force. He did not succeed in achieving his objective of re-distribution of land, but he succeeded in creating a mass  awareness of the economic and social discrimination against the peasants.

9. Unless the people are made aware of the need to fight corruption by refusing to give bribe for whatever reason, the movement will remain without moral force. It will be a show-off movement as it has remained till now without  moral attraction. If Anna can persuade large sections of the people of this country to refuse to pay bribe, the movement can achieve half its objective.

10. His emphasis on the need for a Jan Lokpal and independence for the CBI is important. But, as rightly pointed out by Justice Katju, some of the ideas underlining these measures as conceived by him and his team are impractical. They will create a new bureaucracy as oppressive as the one existing and create new avenues for harassment.

11.How to make the CBI professionally independent and accountable without letting it become a rogue elephant not amenable to any political control? Should it be converted into a constitutional institution under a collective leadership consisting of two or three Directors equally empowered and required to decide and act in unison? Such questions have not been debated by Anna and his team. It is time to have an eminent persons group to examine such questions, revisit their idea and come out with alternate institutional formulations that could be placed before the people and the political parties.

12. The country needs a rejuvenated movement against corruption led by Anna and carried forward by his young followers. That rejuvenation has to come from new models of corruption-free governance to be aimed at, new ways of achieving it and mass participation in the movement. Its power has to come not from threats of fasts, but the backing of the masses. ( 3-8-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )




In the light of the four  low-intensity blasts in Pune on August 1,2012, there is a need for a co-ordinated revisit to  reports being received from time to time since 2002 on the attraction of Pune for terrorist elements----indigenous as well as foreign.

2.Pune as a possible centre for jihadi activities came to notice in March 2002, when Abu Zubaidah, the then No.3 to Osama bin Laden, was arrested by the Pakistani authorities acting at the instance of the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in the house of an activist of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) at Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab and handed over to the FBI. He is now in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre in Cuba. Sections of the Pakistani media had reported at that time that Abu Zubaidah, a Palestinian, had studied computer science in Pune before crossing over into Pakistan and joining Al Qaeda.

3.In September-October,2008, the Mumbai Police had arrested   four  IT-savvy members of the Indian Mujahideen ( IM), who had played a role in  sending  E-mail messages in the name of the IM before and after the Ahmedabad blasts of July, 2008, and before the New Delhi blasts of September,2008, by hacking into Wi-fi networks in Mumbai and Navin Mumbai. Three of them were from Pune. The four persons were:

    Mohammed Mansoor Asgar Peerbhoy aka Munawar aka Mannu. A 31-year-old resident of Pune, who was allegedly working for an American Internet company in its Indian office as a well-paid executive.

    Mubin Kadar Shaikh, a 24-year-old  graduate of computer science from Pune.

    Asif Bashir Shaikh, a 22-year-old mechanical engineer from Pune. In addition to helping in sending the E-mail messages, he also reportedly played a role in planting 18 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Surat, all of which failed to explode.

    Mohammed Ismail Chaudhary, a 28-year-old   computer mechanic, who was also suspected to have helped in planting the IEDs in Surat.

4. Peerbhoy was reported to have joined the IM while he was studying Arabic in Pune's Quran Foundation, which seemed to have served as a favourite recruiting ground for jihadi terrorism.  In this connection, reference is invited to my note titled INDIA AS POSSIBLE WEB OF CYBER TERRORISM at

5. Pune and its Chabad House  figured prominently in  reports on the visits to India by David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the LET presently  in jail in Chicago. Among the targets of interest to Headley in Pune were the local Chabad House, a Jewish cultural-cum-religious centre, which is frequented by Jewish visitors to Pune and the local Rajneesh Ashram frequented by the Western followers of Rajneesh, an Indian spiritual guru, who used to live in the US and was the mentor of some sections of Western youth. Both these places reconnoitred by Headley were near the German Bakery, but neither of them was attacked on February 13, 2010. Instead, the German Bakery was targeted.

6. The IM was reported to have been involved in the explosion in the German Bakery. Pune’s educational institutions attract many foreign students from the Arab countries as well as Iran for studying computer science and other subjects. Since there were reportedly facilities for the study of Arabic in Pune, many Indian Muslims also go there.

7.One has the impression that the investigations made so far by the Maharashtra Police and its Anti-Terrorism Squad as well as by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the activities of terrorism-prone elements in Pune after the arrest of some IT experts of the IM originating from Pune in 2008 have been disjointed focussing mainly on solving the instant cases without trying to see whether there were any linkages with other and past cases.

8. Now that Pune figures in the terror map of India, it is important to make a co-ordinated assessment of Pune’s vulnerability to terrorism of various kinds, including identification of pockets of possible Hindu extremism in the city. ( 2-8-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )